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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  February 25, 2024 11:00pm-12:01am PST

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>> for the family of kelli bordeaux, the loss, the pain, the sorrow never goes away. but david marshburn at least gave them a chance to heal. >> he ended a suffering for my family. where we're sitting here, agonizing for these last two years. he was the one who was able to come in and end this for us. and to make it to where you can try to start rebuilding and doing things that will make kelli proud and to live your life. >> the family also had something for david marshburn. a very special gift from kelli. >> kelli'ds dog tags. which, that's a great honor in itself. >> this is a very important thing. >> yeah. >> for a soldier. >> i always have these. these will stay with me forever. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline. " i'm natalie morales.
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thank you for watching. watchin as soon as she was killed, we all knew who did it. as the months went on, we just realized that this guy's going to get off. how is this happening? hello, i'm andrea canning, and this is dateline. . >> my friend called me and she was hysterical. she said sandra has been killed. i was like, oh, my god. as soon as she was killed, we all knew who did it. as the months went on, we just realized that this guy is going to get off. how is this happening? just keep praying. that's all we can do. >> there aren't a lot of murders in paradise. people still talk about this one. >> just a darling girl with two darling children. >> it is a story keith morrison followed for nearly ten years. >> how? when? >> i got a call from her boss, said she hadn't showed up for work. >> they found her in the car. >> i saw in the back of her
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neck some ligature marks. >> she just didn't deserve that. >> a small island, a small pool of suspects. ryan, her lover with a past -- >> i had no idea he was a drug dealer. >> and darren, the soon-to-be ex-husband. >> that morning he called in sick. >> was darren polygraphed? >> he didn't pass. >> and the lover? >> he didn't do that good either. >> without much else to go on, this case was growing colder by the day. >> nothing. just nothing happens. >> but a father doesn't forget. >> i have to have justice for my daughter. >> after all these years, are there still secrets to uncover? >> must have been quite a journey for you. >> it isn't over yet. >> this father finally got his answer, but is it the one he wanted? >> never in my wildest dreams would i have imagined what we're going through now. ♪ ♪ ♪ hello and welcome to "dateline."
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sandra galas was born and raised on an island known as one of the most beautiful places on earth. so how could something so ugly have happened there? the young mother was found strangled to death in her garage. police immediately set their sights on two men close to sandra, but it would take a father's relentless pursuit of the truth to unravel this mystery. here is keith morrison with "the other side of paradise." >> wandering through this land you wonder if you've been transported to the beginning of biblical time, to a garden free of want, temptation, or betrayal. and in a land so distractingly beautiful, tourists, who ebb and flow like the tides, could be forgiven for looking past this lone, tormented father
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begging for help for a terrible reason, to solve the murder of his precious daughter, sandy. >> yeah, i really appreciate it. >> no, no, anything we can do. >> we're -- >> it takes time. >> we hope. we hope we get an arrest this year. that's how close we are. we are 90% there. >> it's all good. >> we first came upon larry mendonca while on another "dateline" assignment way back in 2009, which is when we shot this video. he was 68 years old then. alone he worked, handing out flyers, gruff and stoic, except when the pain was just too much. >> just that three years -- it's still rough. >> larry took us to sandra's
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grave. told us how he promised to bring her killer to justice. >> she won't be forgotten as long as i'm alive. >> we had no idea then where this meeting would lead us, that our journey would last a decade, a case that would expose evil lurking in this garden paradise and bring larry to the edge of his own mortality. many on kauai new sandra, even watched her as a teenager dancing in a local marketing video. like many here, she was multi- racial, growing up in a household that was half japanese, half portuguese, all hawaiian. and a devout catholic who attended saint catherine's school with friends alma umala and joanie arita. >> when people ask you what was sandy like, what would you tell them? >> she was absolutely a go- getter. like she was teacher's pet.
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>> oh, really? >> always perfect. she always had her hair nicely done. you know, she was always focused. >> in high school, sandra was an athlete, a cheerleader, very popular. >> she was the complete package. >> and her home life? >> old-fashioned. >> traditional. >> traditional family, you know. catholic. play-by-the-rules type of people. >> yeah? >> yeah. >> discipline, a very important thing to larry, he the 20-year air force veteran. >> i was trying to toughen her up, if you want to put it in that expression, to know what the real world was like. >> that was why larry insisted sandra leave kauai to go to college. she ended up in honolulu. but for a small island girl, it felt as big and lonely as new york city. she missed kauai, her family, and would come home as often as she could. >> that's when she got involved with darren.
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>> and darren was here? >> darren was here. >> darren galas, a little older. made good money at his highway construction job. sandra was crazy about him. and soon after she moved home they got married. son austin came nine months later, and braden two years after that. so by the age of 24, sandra was the matriarch of her own little clan. >> she loved the boys to death. i mean, she -- they were the apple of her eye. >> life was good until april 2005, when sandra came to her parents, very upset. >> as she told us, she was cleaning out her husband's backpack when two papers fell out, two phone numbers. so she called the phone numbers and it turned out to be two different married women. >> sandra confronted darren. >> he would never admit it. he just kept saying they were friends, they were friends.
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>> and she knew otherwise? >> she knew what it was. >> by june, darren had moved out and sandra moved on, got a job at the beach house restaurant, an island landmark. it was a life changer. >> she was just a darling girl, you know, with two darling children. >> crystal hall was a waitress at the beach house and saw firsthand sandra's transformation from quiet island girl to young working woman. >> she wore her hair back in a ponytail, and she was very prim and proper and very, you know, subdued. as soon as she got away from darren she was -- like cut her hair in a bob and it was really cute and stylish all of a sudden. >> sandra started going out with friends, and as is pretty obvious in this concert video, she was enjoying her new life. but before too long, sandra started getting friendly with one of the chefs, a recent transplant from oahu named ryan shinjo. >> he wined and dined her and
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took really good care of her. he was really nice to her. they were always doing all kinds of fabulous things. >> going on honolulu shopping trips, for instance, where ryan would lavish expensive gifts on sandra, like louis vuitton luggage. larry and sandra's mom toshie knew little of this relationship. and on january 25th, 2006, were in dallas visiting their son when they got an odd call from sandra's boss. >> they said she hadn't showed up for work. it was very unusual for her. >> hours later, the phone rang again. it was 3:00 a.m., a time when bad news comes calling. larry's son answered the phone. >> and this is basically how he goes. hello. you know, oh, hi. hi, cousin. no! >> coming up -- >> she was slumped to the right, to the passenger's seat, face down. >> who wanted sandra dead? >> she goes driving by with her boyfriend in the car, and from
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what we are told, he went ballistic. he just flipped out. >> when "dateline" continues.
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keith morrison (voiceover): she was beyond the eden the tourists see, out of sight of the rich and verdant estates of the wealthy few. she was in a neighborhood, more working class suburbia than polynesian paradise. in her own small ranch house, in her garage, in her car, she'd been strangled to death. it was sandra's new boyfriend, ryan >> she was beyond the eden that tourists see. out of sight of the rich and verdant estates of the wealthy few. she was in a neighbourhood more working class suburbia than polynesian paradise. in her own small ranch house, in her garage, in her car, she had been strangled to death. it was sandra's new boyfriend ryan shinjo who called the
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police. said he found her that way. >> and she was slumped to the right, to the passenger's seat, face down into the seat. >> roy asher was one of the original investigators. we spoke to him in 2009. this was three years after sandra was murdered. >> i saw in the back of her neck some ligature marks. we didn't find the cord itself, but we have an idea what could have been used. >> what? >> thin -- thin cord like a fishing line. >> sandra's shirt and bra were askew, her lip was split as if she had punched in the face. ryan, the boyfriend -- he's the one on the right of the screen -- told investigators he discovered sandra's body around 9:00 p. m., but the cops could see she had been dead for a while by then. >> probably eight to ten hours.
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>> which would have put the time of death about what? >> in the morning. >> could you get any more exact? >> no. >> given that the estranged husband, darren, used to live with sandra, and ryan was now dating her, their fingerprints could certainly be explained. nothing suspicious there. but ryan finding the body? well, that was potentially suspicious. >> did he have an alibi? >> yes. >> ah, and it checked out? >> yes. >> do you remember what it was? >> he was at work. >> so who else? well, there was sandra's estranged husband, darren, of course, and this was interesting. >> that morning he called in sick. >> so in other words, he didn't have an alibi? >> no. >> and based simply on that lack of an alibi, the police arrested darren. >> when they first said, you think her husband could have done it? and i said -- my first reaction was no. >> but even as larry tried to
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wrap his mind around that idea, a detective called him the following day. >> and he says, we've got to let him go. we don't have enough. we've talked to the prosecuting attorney, and we don't have enough. >> meaning what? was darren involved or not? hit by grief and impatient for answers, larry launched an investigation of his own. >> it was like a -- i don't know, a panic. i mean, you know, i've got so many things to do and i've got to get it done now. >> as a native kauaiian and a veteran air force intelligence analyst, larry had both the connections and the skills to piece together the details surrounding his daughter's murder. for instance, he found out that two days before the killing, darren, while working on a road crew, saw sandra and ryan together. >> she goes driving by with her boyfriend in the car. and from what we're told from
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his co-workers at the time, he went ballistic. he just flipped out. >> at that time -- and this is important to the case -- sandra and darren shared custody of their two sons but, remember, she worked evenings at the restaurant, so the boys slept over with darren. and at 6:00 in the morning she would show up, pick them up, take them off for breakfast, get them ready for school and daycare. but larry discovered on the night before she was murdered, sandra stayed over at ryan's house, her boyfriend. he dropped her off at her place at 6:00 a. m. and then the neighbors told larry they saw her leave in her car soon after that, apparently heading to pick up the boys. >> and neighbors confirmed they saw sandra's car return a short while later, but without the children. larry learned through his contacts that sandra had a 10:00 appointment that morning to get her nails done at a salon about 45 minutes away.
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>> she never made the appointment. so this is how we narrowed down the time of death, before about 9:00 where she would have had to leave to make her appointment. >> the cops didn't tell him, but larry learned from his own sources that boyfriend ryan had an alibi when husband darren did not. all of which got larry thinking the same thing as the police, must have been darren who murdered sandra. >> right now, i'm driven by the case. i mean, i've got to get there. >> many of sandra's friends like crystal hall also thought darren was guilty. >> i think everyone thought that darren would be arrested immediately and, you know, he would be going to jail and the children would be going to the grandparents or her brother and everything was going to be okay. >> and exactly one year after the murder, there was, indeed, an arrest. but it wasn't darren. >> coming up -- >> we've got to get this case
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solved. >> a new theory about sandra's murder. >> she may have been smuggling drugs in her new louis vuitton suitcases and not even knowing it. >> and a threat from her father. >> if i ever figure out a way to get away with it, it will happen. >> when "dateline" continues. cetaphil moisturizing lotion hydrates for a full 48 hours. because a lot can happen in 48 hours. dermatologist-recommended cetaphil. we do skin. you do you. icy hot. ice works fast. ♪♪ heat makes it last. feel the power of contrast therapy. ♪♪ so you can rise from pain. icy hot.
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keith morrison (voiceover): kauai is unique in many ways, not the least of which is this. it's almost a media-free zone. most information spreads here, as it has for generations, by word of mouth, where facts, opinions, and gossip all swirl together as one. and the news swept across the island like a rogue wave. kauai is unique in many ways, not the least of which is
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this -- it's almost a media- free zone. most information spreads here as it has for generations, by word of mouth, where facts, opinions and gossip all swirl together as one. as the news swept across the island like a rogue wave, ryan shinjo had been arrested, but not by the island cops, by the fbi. >> then we hear that ryan has gone to jail and we're like, oh, my god, what? did he do it? could -- then we hear no, no, he went to jail for drug dealing, which none of us knew he was a drug dealer. i had no idea he was a drug dealer. >> ryan it turned out was a player in the big-money drug trafficking ring, running meth from the mainland to oahu to kauai. when people found out about that, rumors started to fly. was ryan using sandra as an unwitting drug mule? when he took her to honolulu,
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was she bringing back meth with her? >> who knows, she may have been smuggling drugs in her new louis vuitton suitcase and not even known it. >> and the final act of that story? sandra found out about the drug ring, and was killed before she could go to the police. but that was just a rumor in a sea of rumors. police didn't seem any closer to finding sandra's killer, whoever it was. the case grew colder with each passing year. larry still thought darren killed sandra, and it seemed wherever larry went on this small island, there he was. >> this is the house there with the boat and truck in there. it's not easy going by here and knowing that he's still running free. we've -- we've got to get this case solved. >> on this day, larry and sandra's mom toshie had to see darren at grandson austin's little league game. that's darren on the field
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coaching. and in the dugout with his girlfriend cherrine, a woman he'd known since before sandra's murder. and it was at this point, 2009, three years after sandra's murder, when larry felt the time had come for him to go from investigator to avenger. he was seriously thinking about killing darren. >> if i ever figure out a way to get away with it, it will happen. >> fortunately, the arrival of a new kauai police chief put his hands on hold. darryl perry, a 30-year veteran of the honolulu pd, agreed to meet with larry and listen to his theories about the case. >> he showed to me the scene and explained to me what happened, and i could feel his grief. >> i mean it wasn't of any forensic value to you for you to be there to look at it, was it?
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>> no, not at all. >> the point was what? >> the point was i wanted him to realize that there is somebody there that's listening to him. >> what did you do next? >> we went to her grave site. we stood there and -- >> what were you thinking about? >> i was thinking about the sadness in the loss of a child. >> there's nothing, nothing, nothing like it. nobody can understand unless they've been there. >> not unless you've lost a child. >> chief perry was struggling to tell us that he did know what it was like to lose a child. he came out of retirement and took the job as head of the kauai police department after the sudden death of his 26-year- old son erickson.
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>> i feel in a way that i'm working through him, that he motivates me. i believe that things happen for a reason. and in fact, i told larry this. i told him, there's a reason why we met. i don't know what the reasons are, but i'm here for you. >> so after meeting with larry, chief perry sent sandra's file to a couple of friends in honolulu, investigators with the state attorney general's cold case unit. >> i asked them to see if they can find anything else that we may have missed. >> and they did indeed find something, using what was breakthrough science for that time, early 2009. cold case investigators extracted touch dna from sandra's shirt and bra. chief perry called larry with the news. >> and he said, they've got something. they rescanned her clothes and they found two -- how did he
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put it? two microscopic particles of a male origin. >> sometimes it's what you find and sometimes it's what you don't. coming up -- >> you know, going through the calendar what i found really interesting is that it's pretty detailed from january 1st all the way up until the 24th. >> but on the morning of sandra's murder -- >> you've got nothing. >> when "dateline" continues. oooh! i can't wait for this family getaway! shingles doesn't care. shingles is a painful, blistering rash that can last for weeks. ahhh, there's nothing like a day out with friends. that's nice, but shingles doesn't care! 99% of adults 50 years or older already have the virus that causes shingles inside them, and it can reactivate at any time. a perfect day for a family outing! guess what? shingles doesn't care. but shingrix protects. only shingrix is proven over 90% effective. shingrix is a vaccine used to prevent shingles in adults 50 years and older. shingrix does not protect everyone and is not for those with severe allergic reactions to its ingredients or to a previous dose.
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i approve this message for all of our shared values. i'm jessica layton, lacona or accidental longer funding gillies campaign. it comes a day after haley lost to former president donald trump in the primary, and south carolina. a political consumptive acknowledges commissioning the robocall that replicated president biden's voice using artificial intelligence. that consultant, at the, time what's working for congressman dean phillips. phillips has denounced the robocall. and now, back to dateline. >> welcome back to "dateline.
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" i'm natalie morales. three years after sandra galas's murder the investigation had stalled. enter chief darryl perry. like sandra's father, larry, chief perry knew the pain of losing a child. motivated by their shared grief, he asked state investigators to take a look at the file. and remarkably, they found new evidence. but in a case full of twists there was another one just around the corner. here again is keith morrison with "the other side of paradise. " >> it took a scientific breakthrough to finally get larry mendonca the breakthrough he was looking for. touch dna, microscopic skin cells on sandra's shirt and bra that was a match to darren. >> when that result came in, tell me what your first thoughts were. >> we got him. >> but larry was wary. >> it isn't over yet. >> because what seemed like great evidence to the cops did not to the newly elected
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prosecuting attorney shailene neseri. for one simple reason. the dna did not exclusively match darren. >> it could have come from the two children. >> larry, though, refused to be discouraged. >> the driving force is to get this case solved and put my daughter to rest. >> she isn't yet. >> hopefully it will be this year. hopefully it'll be 2009. we're close. >> but 2009 ended as it had begun, with the case in stasis, no breaks, no leads, no arrests. and 2010 was no different. same for 2011. nothing. it's fair to say asandra's murder investigation was very much cold. so 2012 now, six years after the murder and three years after that dna test, chief perry gave the case to a new detective, named bryson ponce, who reexamined the physical evidence like sandra's car, undisturbed since the day she was murdered. >> she was sitting down in the driver's seat, and the -- from
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her waist up was pulled, slouched over into the passenger seat. >> you said pulled. did it appear it had been yanked over that way? >> it appeared that way, yeah. we believe that there was a struggle outside of the vehicle in the garage, and that's due to some evidence that was on the outside front of the vehicle. >> but wait a minute -- >> smudge marks and hair. when you look at how this homicide happened, it wasn't sexually motivated or it wasn't a robbery. it really was focused on anger. >> and so ponce circled right back to those original two suspects, husband darren, boyfriend ryan. but which one? from the file ponce learned ryan, in addition to being a drug trafficker, had also been convicted of domestic violence. and was there something fishy about how he found sandra's body? he told the cops he went to
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sandra's house. doors were locked. he said he peered through these ventilation slats at the base of her garage wall. said he saw sandra in her car. >> and calling out sandra, sandra. and then he says he couldn't get into the door. he called a friend to help him open the door. >> called a friend to help him find a body? wouldn't be the first time a guilty party did that. >> did ryan remain here at the scene, wait for the police officers, and talk to them then? >> yeah. >> was there anything in the report about his demeanor that night? >> you know, initially investigators thought that maybe he wasn't saying everything that happened. >> holding back a little. >> yeah. and maybe he was a little bit nervous. >> but ryan had an alibi, right? he was at work when sandra was killed. well, ponce found out the
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estimated time of sandra's death was really more of a rough guess. and that sandra could just as well have been murdered hours earlier, when ryan wasn't at work. and then there were the results from ryan's 2006 polygraph exam. >> what was the result of that? >> he wasn't viewed as passed. sxl whi. >> which didn't look good for ryan. except darren's polygraph result didn't look so good either. >> how'd he do? >> he didn't do that good. he didn't pass. >> that was interesting. both suspects failed the polygraph. so now ponce looked at the evidence against darren, who gave police two entirely different accounts of the
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morning of the murder. first he said sandra came by to get the kids. then a minute later said she didn't. now, remember, darren and sandra were going through a divorce and a heated child custody battle. so darren apparently thought it would be a good idea to take note of run-ins with sandra, like the time she was late in picking up the boys, hoping it would one day help him in court. >> you know, going through the calendar what i found really interesting is that it's pretty detailed from january 1st, every day, all the way up until the 24th is the very last entry. and on the 25th you've got nothing. >> why is that important? because sandra was murdered that very morning, the morning of the 25th. about the time when she would have been picking up her sons. >> you would expect darren to have wrote down in there that sandra never showed up to pick up the boys, that he had to take off from work. >> but he didn't. nor did he call her to find out why she was a no-show. ponce theorized that sandra actually did go to darren's house to get the boys but there was an argument of some sort and she left without them. darren, still angry, followed her home, parking his truck on a street behind sandra's cul-de-
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sac. >> his path, you know, basically leads to the cul-de- sac, and her house is just three houses down right when you come to the end of this walkway. very, very close. easy access. >> so you think that darren came up, followed her, had the confrontation there, killed her with a ligature, choked her to death. then what did he do? >> you know, i think after the incident happened over here he went back and just took off and headed back home. >> and nobody saw him? >> it was still dark. >> ponce also found this e-mail sandra sent her lawyer just three weeks before her murder. "darren started asking me about my boyfriend, as he calls him, ryan. he got really upset and started swearing at me. he started shaking me, telling me to tell him the truth and don't ever call him again. " ponce worked the investigation for close to a year. but as he weighed and reweighed the evidence, he always came back to darren, who lacked an alibi, who called in sick to work, who gave conflicting accounts about the morning of the murder, who left blank the diary entry for the 25th.
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who failed a polygraph. who was jealous of ryan. who never called sandy to find out why she didn't pick up the boys. ponce delivered his final report to chief perry and prosecutor neseri and a handful of investigators. >> we all believed it was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the case was not going to get any better than what we had. >> and prosecutor aseri finally agreed to present the case to a grand jury. and in october 2012 the grand jury indicted darren for sandra's murder. so was larry's quest for justice finally over? oh, no. not by a long shot. >> coming up -- >> this case is the textbook example of why you do not insert politics into people's
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lives. >> a new prosecutor, a new delay. >> kauai is a murderer's paradise. if you want to kill something, you've got probably about 80%, 90% chance of getting away with it. >> when "dateline" continues. " is gentle on sensitive skin and locks in moisture to provide soothing relief. a nose in need deserves puffs indeed. america's #1 lotion tissue. when enamel is gone, you cannot get it back. but you can repair it with pronamel repair. it penetrates deep into the tooth to actively repair acid weakened enamel. i recommend pronamel repair. with new pronamel repair mouthwash you can enhance that repair beyond brushing. they work great together.
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po, destiny calls for you to take the next step. you can enhance that repa[ achoo ] brushing. [ flatulence ] what is it you're holding? a cookie. ah! get ready to meet your match. skadoosh. stand back. i'm gonna kick my butt. keith morrison (voiceover): on october 31, 2012, darren galas was charged with the murder of his wife, sandra. he pleaded not guilty, was released on bail.
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6 and 1/2 months later, on may 15, 2013, sandra's dad larry and mom toshi held this memorial dedication service outside kauai's >> on october 31st, 2012, darren galas was charged with the murder of his wife, sandra. he pleaded not guilty, was released on bail. 6 1/2 months later, on may 15th, 2013, sandra's dad larry and mom toshie held this memorial dedication service outside kauai's domestic violence center. chief perry was there, as was bryson ponce. but darren stayed away, as did sandra's two sons. >> as most of you know, today is sandy's birthday. this is why it's a very, very special day for us. mahalo. >> at this point larry and toshie thought they were in the home stretch, that darren's trial was just months away. but the prosecuting attorney who indicted darren lost her
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bid for re-election, defeated by this man, justin kollar, who flat out accused his predecessor of bringing charges against darren to make a splash and help her chances of re- election, though the case, he said, wasn't ready for trial. >> this case is the textbook example of why you do not insert politics into people's lives. >> got you. >> and into their families. >> so now larry's quest for justice was mired in the political battle. with the new prosecutor saying he couldn't proceed because the alternate suspect, ryan shinjo, had never been completely eliminated. >> if you have cases where you have multiple suspects and you're going to charge one of those suspects, you better be sure you've excluded the other suspect. >> former prosecutor shailene aseri fired back, saying the entire investigative team voted to seek an indictment. >> the team decided unanimously. it wasn't shailene's decision.
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it was the team's decision. i definitely feel that there was more than overwhelming evidence to convict mr. galas. >> you could have gotten that conviction? >> oh, i definitely believe so. >> she's dreaming, said kollar, she never would have won. so kollar reopened the investigation again, and delayed the trial again, while his office tried to strengthen the case, and the result was one trial delay after another. and three years later, 2015 now, larry was one furious 74- year-old man. >> kauai is a murderer's paradise. if you want to kill somebody, come to kauai and you've got probably about an 80%, 90% chance of getting away with it, and i firmly believe that. >> there was never any point during this process where the file was just sitting on a shelf getting dusty. there's always something that
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was being done, another piece of evidence that was being tested, another witness that was being looked for. >> but you must have been ready to let it go at some point, said we can't do this, just forget about it. >> that conversation happened any number of times over the years, but at each time we said no, there's got to be a way to move this forward. >> it was larry's kind of constant input, part of the thing that kept you going here? >> of course. i mean none of us wanted to get that call saying, hey, larry's -- larry wants to see you right away and he's not happy. >> when we spoke to larry in 2015, darren's trial was on the calendar for march of the following year, and the odds larry gave of that happening? >> i would say probably a little better than 50/50. >> but even that was
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optimistic. the trial was delayed again until november 2016, but as that trial date approached, the defense requested another delay and the judge granted it. the case was continued to august 2017. and as that date approached, we looked back on what larry said to us in 2015. >> someday this is going to end, you know, one way or another, and maybe i can rest a little bit. >> early in the morning of the 14th of february, 2017, larry mendonca, age 75, went out to play a round of golf. wasn't feeling well. called his son, lawrence, in texas. >> and told me he was having a heart attack and he was going to the emergency room. >> what was that like? >> it was pretty intense. but being as stubborn as my dad
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is, don't worry about it, i'll be fine, they're just going to put a stent in me, i will be fine. i don't think he knew the magnitude of the situation at the time. >> coming up, a father fights for his life. >> to see him in that hospital bed was tough, very tough. >> what will happen to his fight for justice? >> it is all about what you can prove in a court of law. >> when "dateline" continues. " did you know most dish soaps don't remove all the grease, even with scrubbing? whaaat? i just cleaned those! try dawn platinum. it removes 99% of grease and food residue. that's why dawn is trusted to save wildlife affected by oil. dawn platinum cleans to the squeak. covid-19? i'm not waiting.
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this election is about who shares your values. let me share mine. i'm the only candidate with a record of taking on maga republicans, and winning. when they overturned roe, i secured abortion rights in our state constitution. when trump attacked our lgbtq and asian neighbors, i strengthened our hate crime laws. i fought for all of us struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. i'm evan low, and i approve this message for all of our shared values.
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welcome back. for more than a decade, larry mendonca had waged a relentless battle to get his daughter's killer put behind bars. he believed sandra's husband, darren galas, strangled her. after a years long investigation, prosecutors agreed, and yet, darren remained free on bail. >> welcome back. for more than a decade larry mendonca had waged a bat toll get his daughter's killer put behind bars. he believed his daughter's husband, darren galas, strangled her. after a years-long
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investigation prosecutors agreed. and yet darren remained free on bail. larry was far from giving up his crusade. but the endless frustration was taking its toll. with a father who fought so hard for justice live to see it? here's keith morrison with the conclusion of "the other side of paradise. " >> larry mendonca didn't understand what was happening to him when he was walking this fairway playing golf. it was only later when the doctor intervened rushed him by air ambulance to honolulu. heart attack, triple bypass surgery. and then a stroke. >> it was difficult for me to see how vulnerable he was at that time. >> because he always seemed like the unvulnerable man. >> correct. he was superman to myself and my sister. and to see him in that situation in that hospital bed,
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it was tough. very tough. >> it was sheer cussiveness probably that pulled him back from the brink. >> my cardiologist says the whole thing was probably due to the 10, 12 years of stress. >> larry spent months in physical therapy to build up the strength to attend darren galas's trial, scheduled for the summer of 2017. but it was delayed yet again. and darren during all this time? out and about. this time we found him at son austin's soccer game. that's him wearing the black t- shirt, gold chain, and wraparound sunglasses. and in the blue shirt his wife, sherine. larry and his wife toeshie were there at the socker game too.
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always are. and what he felt on his chest was more rage than physical pain. >> someday i might lose it all. i really don't know what i'm going to do. you never know till it happens. >> then, late 2017, a breakthrough. the prosecutor felt his investigators had finally and fully eliminated ryan as a suspect, which now only left darren in their sights. >> we had done? work over the years that had made the case somewhat better. maybe darren looked himself in the mirror and said i know i did it. i don't know. but they said, we'll plead. >> but plead guilty to murder? no. darren agreed to plead no contest to assault. >> you had a murder case here. no contest to assault sounds like not very bad. >> well, we may think we have a murder case. we may know that he did it. but it's all about what you can prove in a court of law. >> and on january 29th, 2018,
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12 years after sandra's murder, we were with larry outside the courthouse just an hour before the plea hearing. and as you might have guessed, he wasn't happy. >> there's no -- no justice. >> what are the chances that thing could fall apart over there this morning? >> there's a possibility. he can -- i'm told he can change his mind at any given time, up to the time he is sentenced. >> but what happened here -- >> drawing your attention to the no contest plea form -- >> as darren formally changed his plea from not guilty to murder 2 to no contest to assault 1. >> thank you. >> was not final resolution but more delay. the court granted darren four more months of freedom before
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sentencing. and larry? well -- >> i'm very mad. i'm very upset. >> there was once a time just after sandra's murder when larry and toshie were hoping to raise sandra's boys. but now? >> he's been working on them for 12 years. he's been brainwashing them. they hate their mother. they hate their grandparents. >> as he left court darren was protected by a phalanx of friends and relatives which included the two grandsons. darren declined to speak with us, but his defense lawyer, michael green, did stop to
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talk. >> there's a big difference between pleading no contest and pleading guilty. >> it certainly suggests he did something to her. >> well, he assaulted her. >> that very day? he didn't kill her? >> and he doesn't admit that he assaulted her. no contest means he neither admits nor denies charges. >> but now for four months uncertainty. because the judge had the power to sentence darren to anything from ten years in prison to probation. >> what i foresee at
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sentencing, they're going to ask for leniency. >> do you think he could actually avoid going to prison altogether? >> at this point i wouldn't put anything past them. >> on may 30th, 2018 we were back outside the courthouse with larry mendonca. this time he was the one surrounded by supporters. a 12-year investigation now reduced to just an hour in court that felt as stressful and tense as any jury trial. would darren be carted off to
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prison or would the judge give him probation and send him home? darren's lawyer, michael green, reminded the judge there had been an alternate suspect. >> this guy shinjo, who was a person of interest the entire time. >> then he told the judge to remember this was not a murder case. >> there's an agreement that my client will plead guilty to nothing. nothing. he's offered to plead no contest to an assault charge. >> and then larry got his chance, finally, to let 12 years of pain pour out. starting with that first awful night when he broke the news to toshi. >> how do you tell a woman that the baby she had once nursed, falling asleep in her arms, played on her lap, skipped off to school clutching the lunch that she had made for her, was now dead? we received a life sentence for
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the pain, so,

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